A new COVID-19 testing booth set up inside the Civil Hospital in Sector 45 next to the tuberculosis (TB) clinic or the Designated Microscopy Centre (DMC) at the hospital has caused concern amongst healthcare staff over a potential co-infection of TB and COVID-19 amongst patients.
“Almost 100 TB patients visit us every day. They should not be in close proximity to suspected COVID-19 patients. It can prove to be disastrous for our registered TB patients’ health,” said a staff member from the DMC, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Under the Revised National Tuberculosis Programme (RNTCP) in Chandigarh, three Tuberculosis Units, 17 DMCs and 171 Directly Observed Treatment (DOT) centres work cohesively to ensure TB treatment and prevention in the city.
The DMC in Sector 45 Civil hospital works as a DOT centre as well as a diagnostic centre for TB patients, drawing upwards of 80 patients looking for treatment or diagnosis per day. Thirty new patients were registered at the centre in July alone.
“Though the number of patients getting diagnosed at the centre dropped since the lockdown began, we still receive a large number of patients every day. Along with this, today there was also a huge line of suspected COVID-19 patients right next to our building,” explains the staff member from the DMC.
Though no substantive research has taken place on the effect of a COVID-19 infection on a TB patient, a co-infection of the diseases will certainly take a larger toll on a patient’s body, often already ravaged by a TB infection.
“There is a concern that COVID-19 impacts the liver of TB patients and these patients already have damaged livers sometimes as a side effect of their TB medication. Furthermore, in case of pulmonary TB, these patients already have damaged lungs, an aggressive and acute viral infection like COVID can really add to that damage and cause severe symptoms in such patients,” explains Dr Digambar Behera, a Padma Shri awardee and pulmonologist from PGIMER who has done extensive work in TB treatment and research as well.
However, the Senior Medical Officer (SMO) for Civil Hospital in Sector 45, Dr Krishna Choudhary, states that the sampling centre is at a safe distance from the TB clinic. “It is far enough to ensure that there is no interaction between patients and there is a separate entrance for the COVID sampling booth we have set up,” the SMO states.
The SMO explains that the booth, which was set up on Tuesday, could not be set up anywhere else on the compound because it put local residents at risk.
“We didn’t want to test people in the isolation area as well because suspected patients would have to cross the entire hospital to reach there. This is a small compound and we have done our best to find an ideal space for COVID sampling. Of course, if this does not turn out to be feasible, we will look for other places to shift to as well in the coming days,” Dr Choudhary says.
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